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A word from UGA Extension
Diagnosing plant disease through pictures
Ingram Sam
Sam Ingram

We have all heard the saying “April showers bring May Flowers.” Rainfall in April helps replenish our plants as they gear up for another growing season. However, this precipitation also brings unwanted consequences to our landscapes — disease.

Fungal and bacterial diseases usually start popping up at the beginning of spring. Most diseases require warming temperatures and plentiful moisture to start growing and spreading. Our large amounts of spring rainfall and humid conditions often encourage large amounts of fungal growth on our turf, shrubs, trees, and vegetables.

If you do encounter a diseased plant, the best thing to bring in a fresh sample of some affected material to the Extension office. However, many people are simply too busy to drop by the office.

Thankfully, with the modern wonder of digital photography, I can also diagnose your plant issues through email.

Diagnosing plant disease through email can be a quick process, but it often depends on the quality and breadth of your photos. I often have folks send me just one blurry image of their diseased plant. I prefer to receive at least three to four photos of any damaged plant.

The first photo should capture the overall conditions. For instance, showing an entire row of screen trees can help show if a disease is affecting several trees or just certain branches of a single tree. Turf diseases will often affect a large area, so a wide shot of the lawn will aid in diagnosis.

The second photo should be made closer in. A shot of a single branch or a cluster of leaves will often help show the size and location of diseased spots. A photo of a single patch of diseased turf will help me determine which fungus is responsible. In these photos, it is also a good idea to include some object to help show the scale. A pencil, ruler, or coin can be used.

Another photo you should try to include in your email submissions is a close shot of the diseased lesions. Many diseases will have distinct characteristics, such as white spores, dark spots, or oozing sap, which can help greatly with identification. Close up pictures will often allow me to see fungal fruiting bodies, which can be essential in plant disease diagnosis.

Once I have viewed your photos, I will send you a response with the name of the disease and management suggestions. Some diseases may be difficult to identify, in which case I will send them to our UGA Extension specialists in Athens, Griffin, or Tifton for a second opinion.

All plant issues cannot be identified solely through photos, but it can be a good first step. Many plant symptoms resemble disease but are actually caused by environmental factors. On-site diagnosis is usually required to solve these types of issues.

For more information or questions, contact Effingam Extension agent Sam Ingram at singram@uga.edu or 754-8040.